Pokémon is a 1996 Japanese media empire that was built around the idea of cute pocket monsters that could be summoned to battle or act as companions and pets. These adorable critters spawned a massive worldwide fandom that now includes video games, anime series, feature length films, and a wildly popular trading card game. Our list of the top five best Pokémon video games is a trip down memory lane back to where it all started in the Kanto region to the most recent releases “Pokémon Scarlet” and “Pokémon Violet.”
The word Pokémon is a portmanteau of pocket and monster. The core concept of the media franchise is the existence of fantasy monsters that are captured and trained to compete in sports-inspired showdowns to prove who is the strongest. As a game concept, the franchise places players in the role of a young Pokémon trainer that goes on a grand adventure to capture and train as many monsters as possible. The series catch phrase and theme song, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” is the central driving motivation for most characters in the series.
The main animated franchise includes eight cartoon series that follow the adventures of iconic Pokémon trainer Ash Ketchum and his most faithful companion and franchise mascot Pikachu. With this basic setup a perfect combination of whimsy, action, and consumerism came together to create a worldwide mega-brand with an estimated worth exceeding $92 billion. Sales aside, Pokémon have become an expression of youth and nostalgia that are beloved by many Americans. Because of the wide media net cast, the Pokémon series is popular even among fans that don’t participate in the video or trading card games directly.
With the explosive nature of this popular franchise, we decided to take a look at more games to expand on your fandom. Our list of the top five best Pokémon video games recalls well-regarded titles that are still played today. One additional thing to keep in mind is that Pokémon games are often released in pairs, with each title focusing on a slightly different set of exclusive Pokémon. This gameplay mechanic encourages monster trading as the main way to catch ‘em all. Let us know your favorite Pokémon titles in the comments below!
The List: Best Pokémon Video Games, According to Fans
1. “Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver” (2010)
These two titles are the most popular of all time with nearly all our sources. That remarkable accomplishment is due to the masterful combination of fun game play and the richly detailed Johto region of generation two. Dexerto offers a rave review, “‘Pokemon HeartGold’ and ‘SoulSilver’ are the 2010 Nintendo DS remakes of the 1999 Game Boy Color Gold and Silver games, which introduced Generation 2 for the very first time. It retells the story of the Johto region and actually opens up to Red, Blue, and Yellow’s Kanto region in the post-game, making it a giant compared to recent games in the series like ‘Sword & Shield’ which just has a handful of small events after the main story.”
Today is the 13th anniversary of Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver Versions, first released in Japan for Nintendo DS on September 12, 2009!
— Bulbapedia (@Bulbapedia) September 11, 2022
“The massive quest, expanded Pokédex, and everything else that made the original Gold and Silver fan favorites returned in all their glory in these remakes released 10 years after the originals… ‘HeartGold’ and ‘SoulSilver’ are remakes done right, incorporating the very best of the franchise’s old and new mechanics to create the definitive Pokémon game,” gushes Den of Geek.
“Future games would trickle in additional quality of life features and other innovations, but some would argue it never got better than traveling across the land, searching far and wide in these DS remakes. The Game Boy originals may be a little hard to return to these days, but Pokémon ‘HeartGold’ & ‘SoulSilver’ strike the very best balance of nostalgia and that patented catch-’em-all game play,” reflects Nintendo Life of these well-loved remakes.
2. “Pokémon Black 2 & White 2” (2012)
In a very rare move, “Pokémon Black 2 & White 2” are direct sequels to the previous games set in the same Unova region. These two titles are filled with deep content that offered fans hours of game play. CBR praises these titles, “Instead of being a retread or re-imagining of past games, the sequels were a completely new narrative. This included both new characters and returning characters who had undergone some character development. With excellent added features like PokéStars Studios and the Pokémon World Tournament, ‘Black 2’ & ‘White 2’ are considered cult classics.”
On this day in 2012, 11 years ago, Pokémon Black 2 & White 2 were first released.
— Today in Pokémon History by Serebii.net (@SerebiiOTD) June 23, 2023
IGN also lauds, “Gen 5 was a revolutionary era for the Pokémon franchise, and the first-ever direct sequels ‘Pokémon Black 2’ and ‘White 2’ encapsulate everything that made it so great. The original Black and White games set a solid foundation by introducing the Unova region filled with all new Pokémon, a captivating story with an all-time great rival (N), and music that absolutely shreds–and then the sequels made it all soar to new heights.”
These rare titles are typically found at high prices from after market sellers. “Unova’s bigger now, with several new cities and routes. The Pokémon World Championship is an all-star celebration of powerful trainers from across the first five generations, and there’s been nothing quite like it since…We’re barely scratching the surface of what ‘Black 2’ & ‘White 2’ feel like a culmination of the rich tapestry of 2D-era Pokémon games. Just beware their high price tags; the relative mediocrity of their sales, coupled with their sought-after nature (because they’re good!), is the recipe for exorbitant after-market markups,” explains The Gamer.
3. “Pokémon Red & Blue” (1996)
These three titles are the games that started it all. Taking on the role of a young Pokémon trainer in their adventure across the Kanto region. In many ways, these games were a companion piece to PTCG. Gamespot writes of these games and their indelible charm: “These Game Boy classics lack some of the fit and finish that would come in later iterations of the franchise, but they still hold up incredibly well. All of the major pieces that make a Pokémon game great are present here, including a lengthy monster-catching story, charming chiptune music, a rival character nipping at your heels, and of course, the existence of rare and hard-to-find legendary Pokémon.”
On this day in 1996, 26 years ago, Pokémon Blue was released in Japan for CoroCoro readers with a retail release 3 years later
— Today in Pokémon History by Serebii.net (@SerebiiOTD) October 15, 2022
Gaming Gorilla adds, “Trainers must complete the Pokédex by collecting all 150 Pokémon. Players can trade Pokémon and battle each other face to face using a link cable for the Game Boy. The concept of trading and the multiplayer options were praised by critics and the two independent titles are considered among the greatest games ever made. Selling over 300 million copies worldwide to date, Pokémon Red & Blue are noted in the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘Bestselling RPG of all time.'”
For The Win adds that “The original Pokémon games are probably the hardest ones to integrate into a list like this. On one hand, without ‘Red’ & ‘Blue’ we wouldn’t have any of these games at all, so their importance to the series at large is both immeasurable and impossible to contest. On the other, they’re obviously quite a lot older than most of the other games here, and are absolutely incapable of hiding it.
“Pokémon Legends: Arceus” is a whimsical title that sees our protagonist falling into a portal to the past. Gone are the modern scenes of the other titles in the series, replaced by the feudal charm of the Hisui region. Kotaku posits, “Its open-world structure isn’t as seamless as ‘Scarlet’ and ‘Violet,’ but it’s more fluid, friction-less, and frightening to explore. Legends: Arceus uses its historic setting to free itself from the shackles of the series’ usual competitive sport, allowing both it and the player to explore new stories, mechanics, and structures.”
Dexerto opines, “What made this spin-off so exciting was the way you could interact with wild Pokémon… This is one of the best entries in Pokémon and proves that Game Freak is still capable of genuine innovation when it tries. It’s not the prettiest game but that’s forgivable since the game play loop and story are so memorable.”
“Most Pokémon games follow a familiar template set by the Game Boy original. ‘Legends: Arceus’ took apart those systems and rebuilt them anew, taking a critical eye to everything that the series had long taken for granted. Capturing, battling, and world traversal were completely re-imagined in this new context for a Pokémon game that felt both familiar and like the start of something new,” according to Gamespot.
“Platinum” is another rarity among Pokémon titles in that it is regarded as being clearly better than its fourth-generation siblings “Diamond” and “Pearl.” “Platinum” was a best-selling title for the Nintendo DS handheld device. Nintendo Life chimes in with a positive review: “From the new characters to the addition of the Battle Frontier and an enhanced online experience, ‘Pokémon Platinum’ certainly offered a lot of game for your money back in 2009… Game Freak went out of its way to add a ton of worthwhile additions that were enough to warrant a purchase even if you’d previously traveled across the Sinnoh region in Pokémon Diamond & Pearl when they released two years prior.”
“The number of things ‘Platinum’ does to brighten the ‘Diamond’ & ‘Pearl’ experience can’t even be counted on two open hands. The Team Galactic plot is stronger, with a terrific cross-dimensional climax. There’s more to do after completing the Pokémon League journey, including the last appearance of the beloved Battle Frontier,” claims The Gamer.
“Platinum” was also the first Pokémon game to have Wi-Fi compatibility. “Trainers could finally trade and battle Pokémon from all over the world from the comfort of home without having to track down someone who actually had the monsters you needed and fiddling with unwieldy cables. That feature alone was a literal game changer for catching ‘em all, but add in these games’ more refined combat, an expanded day-night cycle, and a story with the fate of the entire universe on the line, and you’ve got an incredible Pokémon adventure that just barely misses out on the top spot,” favors Den of Geek.
You might also be interested in:
- Best Pokémon of all Time
- Best RPGs On Steam
- Best Cozy Games On Nintendo Switch
- Best Nintendo Games of All-Time
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.